First off let me start with clearing this up, the movie is about clones. The film does not hide this, it’s not some huge twist the movie is about clones. So don’t think seeing that in reviews or reports about the film has someone ruined the film for you. This film follows three young students who live in an alternate reality. I say that because the film starts with in the 1970’s I believe and technology has leaped forward to the point that clones exist. We start at a small boarding school called Hailsham where students live life without much worry. Here we see Kathy(Carey Mulligan), Tommy(Andrew Garfield) and Ruth(Keira Knightley) as children. Relationships grow here and Kathy and Tommy obviously fall in love. Ruth steps in the way of that and begins to date Tommy. This seems very simple but the set up is necessary. Along with the romance we see how dark the world they live in is. A teacher is fired once she breaks down and begins to feel for the clones that live at the school. The interesting thing here is that the school teaches the students and openly tells them who they are. Every one of them accepts their fate that they must live to “donate” their organs. The children grow up knowing and understanding that they exist for “donation” and then “completion” that comes after. The school grounds are beautiful but their is a very weird feeling in every scene. Director Mark Romanek does a great job of making these scenes not threatening but the vibe of death is always there. The clone children only have one thing to look forward to and that is a day where obviously old donated toys are delivered to the school. This scene is very effective mainly because the children are so excited for these toys but the audience blatantly sees they are donated goods.
We take a jump to the 80’s where the children are now much older. Our three leads move away from Hailsham to “The Cottages”. Here they mainly wait around. Kathy must deal with being the third wheel as she watches Ruth and Tommy date. At one point she can easily hear them make love. Her jealousy boils over and she decides to become a “carer” which means she stays with clones after they “donated” and she works with them until they die or reach “completion”. Then years later the three meet and Kathy and Tommy finally come together and deal with the fact that their time is running out but yet they just now get to experience their love. The film is very bleak it deals with death, love and guilt. Knightley’s character Ruth breaks apart as she goes through “donation” blaming herself for keeping Kathy and Tommy away from each other. Though he’s got three acting juggernauts, Romanek keeps the emotional temperature down quite a bit. Since the clones have grown up knowing their fate none of the characters get that emotionally shaken by the though of death or loss of time. That is until things change at the end.
My only problem with the film is they set up a very interesting alternate world. Our characters live in a world where everyone knows of clones and how they “donate” but everyone seems alright with it. We don’t see a lot of the outside world though. No characters ever try to escape or fight back like in Michael Bay’s “The Island” they just accept what is happening to them. We do get one scene when the three are at the Cottages where they go into the real world. They go to a diner and are blown away by ordering food. Still we see no real sign of human vs. clone relations or anything. Sure the movie wasn’t about this but I found all of the politics behind it interesting but the film never seems to focus on it.
The acting and direction is beyond top notch, the movie does move very slowly and a lot of the themes seem like something we’ve seen before. In the end no matter who you are you should never waste the time you have. Also love lasts even when you know when your expiration date is you can still love till your final moment. Never Let Me Go is not the best film of the year but it is a strong film with some very interesting themes and plots to along with it.